From Star Tours to Galaxy's Edge: Immersion, Transmediality and ‘Haptic Fandom’ in Disney's Theme Parks

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Much of the discussion around what has become known as “Disney’s Star Wars” operates from an assumption that the relationship between the two began with Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012. However, as this chapter demonstrates, the two companies have a much lengthier history in terms of the long-standing use of Star Wars intellectual property within the various theme parks that Disney operates. The chapter outlines how Disney and Star Wars’ connection actually originated in the mid-1980’s with the Disney Company’s relationship with George Lucas, outlining the trajectory of the franchise’s presence from a single ride – the original Star Tours – through to a more immersive version in its replacement Star Wars: The Adventures Continue. Exploring the opportunities for fannish engagement that these single rides offer, the chapter also considers the strengthened presence of Star Wars in Disney parks since their acquisition of Lucasfilm.
The chapter proposes that we must continue to critically consider the relationship between theme parks and transmedia franchises, and pay attention to fan reactions to the immersion, pleasure and play that these can offer. Since “fan-text affective relationships cannot be separated from spatial concerns and categories” (Hills 2002, 145), the chapter argues that the presence of Star Wars in the Disney parks offers unique opportunities for fans to become immersed in its transmedia world and to move their fandom from the textual into the bodily and the spatial, engaging in forms of ‘haptic fandom’. It considers the three iterations of Star Wars that have been present in Disney’s parks (and the other events and experiences that have operated around them). The chapter thus argues that the presence of Star Wars in Disney parks works to partially contradict accounts that focus on the recent merger since ‘Disney’s Star Wars’ has a longer history than we may suppose. Secondly, it proposes that, to fully understand the forces of participation and reception at work around the franchise, we need to consider not just Star Wars fans but also the fans of the places that the property spatially operates within.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDisney's Star Wars
Subtitle of host publicationForces of Production, Promotion and Reception
EditorsRichard McCulloch, William Proctor
Place of PublicationIowa
PublisherUniversity of Iowa Press
ISBN (Electronic)978-1609386443
ISBN (Print)978-1609386436
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Fandom
  • place and space
  • theme parks
  • immersion
  • haptic fandom


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